I am not an admin, but I have to manage around 10 linux servers. These servers are all over the world, some are used as production servers, others as staging or development servers.

Currently there is no centralized management of these servers. If I have to create a user, I have to manually do so on all machines, I have to add them to a group manually (and re-read man pages to see how it is done), edit sudoers file, etc.

All these machines run our custom software, so I need a way to monitor the the processes (could be as simple as repeatedly doing 'ps -ef' to make sure it is up).

I have seen some software to centrally manage machines, such as nagios, webmin, redhat's spacewalk, ubuntu's landscape and many variants.

  • I prefer free software, but am willing to pay small amount (appropriate for two/three people startup) if it is easy to configure/manage
  • Looks like process/machine monitoring (nagios) is usually separate from managing users (webmin), which is still different from package management (landscape/spacewalk)...true?
  • Now that cloud computing is becoming popular for small shops (many of them run by devs, without admins), aren't there easier (and better looking) tools to easily manage multiple machines (virtual or real)?
  • Again, because of cloud computing, many middle ware vendors are including rest based interfaces--are there tools that let me use these interfaces from a single 'dashboard?'

You want Puppet. System automation ftw. An added benefit of Puppet, from a programmer's perspective, is that you're effectively writing code to manage the machines, and more of your programming best practices (like revision control) map naturally to Puppet's way of working.

  • I don't like its syntax :) but other implementations are worse... – kolypto Oct 19 '09 at 23:29

Check out Webmin for a nice web-driven remote management interface. It has module add-ons for a number of monitoring utilities (like Heartbeat, for example, as well as other multi-server monitoring tools). You can also link any number of servers running webmin into one panel, to put all your server monitoring in one place.

For users, you probably want to set up something like OpenLDAP or a Samba domain, rather than copying users from one machine to the next. OpenLDAP can be a pain, but nothing like trying to sync users across multiple machines.

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